Nazo no Kanojo X – 06

Mikoto Urabe, truly a dream girl.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! Last episode of Mysterious Girlfriend X featured some good fun and more fanservice than this show is used to, and the preview for this one promised some more drama, which I’d be happy to get back to. Let’s see what it had in store!

Sort of an episode of 2 halves, though the 1st flows seamlessly into the 2nd. The 1st features Ayuko Oka playing with our main couple through the drool and sweat exchange that she discovered with Mikoto in episode 4. After forcing Akira to have ice cream with her and shocking him by calling Ueno by his first name, she licks his sweat to find that he was fantasizing of being called Akira by Mikoto. Later she relays this information to Mikoto before taking her drool to find that Mikoto was thinking of the same thing. Both times, she acts unsolicited and without permission, then teases the other person over her discovery.

Oka forcibly takes Mikoto’s drool, then teases her about it.

Understandably, Mikoto is upset at Oka, but she can’t hide her blush or deny her claims.

With the concept of “first name basis” in their heads thanks to Oka, Akira and Mikoto stop at a park on the way home to cool down a bit. When Akira goes off to buy some drinks, Mikoto falls into a deep sleep from which Akira can’t seem to awaken her. Until he decides to try calling her by her first name, which gets her up with a warm smile. He sees the smile as an indication that she liked it, but he can’t get up the courage to do it again. Perhaps caused by this little encounter, Akira dreams that night of taking a smiling photograph of Mikoto in that crazy city, and he decides that he needs a real one. But while Mikoto is willing to let him take pictures of her, she refuses to fake a smile for a photograph, which leaves Akira downtrodden.

Mikoto’s real smile that inspired the dream.

On another day, Akira is waiting to meet up with Mikoto when his old middle school crush Aika happens to run into him. She is interested in going for a coffee to catch up, but he turns her down. Once she leaves, he discovers that Mikoto was hiding and eavesdropping. She isn’t angry but something is clearly bothering her, and Akira asks her if she would have been upset if he had decided to accept Aika’s offer. Mikoto responds by giving him her drool, which causes him to start crying. She explains that that would have made her sad, not angry, and his tears are those she would have shed if he had gone for the other girl. Akira tells her again that he is over his old crush, and that Mikoto is the one for him now, which makes her smile.

Akira doesn’t miss this opportunity to take a photograph of her genuine smile, and Mikoto accepts, but right when he presses the shutter, she sticks her tongue out and makes a face at the camera instead. He is disappointed at first, but looking at the (Polaroid-style instant) photograph again, he tells her that he will treasure this picture because it’s of her. Mikoto responds with a huge volume of saliva suddenly flowing from her mouth, much like at the end of episode 1 following Akira’s confession.

That’s the best you’re gonna get. If you don’t like it, I can cut it up for you (but really, this is a far better photo, don’t you think?).

Mikoto can’t hide how moved she is by seeing Akira treasure her picture.

This was the best episode of Mysterious Girlfriend X so far. It was thanks to a combination of many things, not the least of which was the wonderful Ayuko Oka, who, through her appearances in the first half, took the energy level of the show up a notch. The way she treated the drool connection was as if it was just another tool for communication, a way to get into the pair’s heads and pull out what they were holding back. Since Akira and Mikoto have approached it so far with caution and a sense of wonder, it almost felt as if Oka was abusing this magic. Then again, perhaps she was using it exactly the way it’s supposed to be used, to cut through our inhibitions and reveal what’s in our hearts.

Oka is clearly enjoying this new power that Mikoto introduced to her 2 episodes back.

I can’t shake the feeling that it’s also a crutch, though. Mikoto clearly values honesty highly, as we saw by her refusal to fake a smile for a photo, but like any teenager, she sometimes has difficulty being open with her feelings. She depends on the magic to get her true feelings across to Akira when she can’t adequately put them into words. It’s a great device for nurturing the relationship between these two naive and awkward adolescents, but I hope that the story involves them learning to cast away this crutch and to reach each other’s hearts without magic. There’s still a long way to go, seeing as they’re still too embarrassed to call each other by their first names, and Akira can’t even let his best friend know that he’s in a relationship at all.

I had fun seeing Oka tease our protagonists, and overall this episode had the best comedy from this show. The way Akira responded with awe at Oka calling Ueno by his first name was as hilarious as it was adorable, and the timing was great during the juice sharing scene in the park as well as in the photo sessions. The quick music cut at Mikoto’s refusal to smile may have been cliche, but it felt right at home in this show that has an old-fashioned feel. And how about Mikoto’s gift to Akira, a photo far superior to the regular smiling headshot he had expected?

This episode was also the most emotionally affecting one, the encounter with Akira’s old crush feeling more significant than the one with Mikoto’s suitor Ogata back in episode 3. The maturity (honesty) on display here by both Akira, who turned down his old crush in as classy a way as possible, and Mikoto, who was open about her jealousy but did not let it control her, was heartwarming to watch. In particular, the latest drool exchange that led to Akira crying was beautiful due to its camera use.

I wanted to embed this video in the post, but unfortunately YouTube took down my video the moment I uploaded it. Please click on the image above to go to the video on my Tumblr page.

After the 1st episode aired, I commented that the cinematography reminded me more of a live-action show. By panning the camera instead of cutting back and forth to the characters here, the scene caught pretty much the entire climax in one cut. This technique is almost never used in anime with their plethora of quick cuts (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, try keeping track of the longest cuts you see in the next anime episode you watch – you’ll understand), but it’s often used in live-action shows (and movies) to give conversations a more stage-like feel, as if the audience is there with the characters. That’s how it worked here: showing Akira’s first lick, his involuntary tears, Mikoto’s explanation of those tears, and Akira’s reaction to that all in one cut made it feel more natural and believable.

The cinematography was a major contributor to that scene being so powerful. I just hope this isn’t the peak in drama, because it was done so well and it’ll be tough to top. I love how the show creates tension over very small, seemingly trivial things, such as calling one’s partner by their first name or seeing one’s girlfriend in a swimsuit for the first time. But that tension doesn’t feel artificial or melodramatic because of the frankness with which these naive characters approach the issues. Given that our couple hasn’t really run into real (traditional) speed bumps quite yet, I’m sure there’s plenty of room for the drama in this show to grow into something even greater by the end.

Preview

Looks like people will be getting sick. And Oka’s sticking around!

About

A math/science geek and a self-dubbed cynical optimist. I don't care if it's deep, if it can make me feel something or laugh, it's fine in my book. @lvlln
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10 Responses to “Nazo no Kanojo X – 06”

  1. Bob from Accounting says:

    Oka is clearly bored of Mikoto and Akira being so slow-moving and is trying to move things along for her own amusement. Also, this episode hammered home to me the fact the whole ‘first-name basis’ thing is one of the most adorably innocent things in Japanese culture.

    • lvlln says:

      I wonder if Oka’s intentions are that clear cut and specific. I got the sense that, as someone more experienced than them, she is just having some fun with them for her amusement, not necessarily to help them, but also not with any ill intentions. She almost looked like a child (well, she does look like a child) with a new toy, playing with the magic that Mikoto showed her 2 episodes ago. Her meeting with Akira at the beginning wasn’t premeditated but just a coincidence, after all.

      Of course, she’s admitted straight up to semi-stalking Mikoto and Akira, so she certainly could intentionally be playing Cupid.

    • BlackBriar says:

      Oka probably doesn’t want to see a sluggish relationship and was trying to “assist” them to move further. Her teasing was underhandedly well done. The honesty of this anime is great.

  2. animekritik says:

    Both the cinematography and the art are great, surprisingly good for an episode 6. I’m very optimistic this won’t be the peak, but that things will get better from now on..

    • lvlln says:

      I’m loving the calm pacing of this show, but the dramatic moments like at the climax of this episode have been great. I’m flying blind at this point, because the show is getting very close to where I stopped reading the manga. I hope it builds up the drama well for a satisfying finish.

  3. Racer X 47.1 beta says:

    Nice write up. Thanks for bringing the cinematography aspect in to your review. Not a lot of other bloggers do this. I’ve been trying to put my finger on the slow pacing of the show other than ” . . . that’s just how the story is”, as friend told me. I really need to pay more attention to this aspect of a show.

    It’s also helping with showing how Mikoto hides all her insecurities and inexperience behind the “weirdness”. I think she’s a lot more normal than she lets on.

    • lvlln says:

      I enjoy paying close attention to the visuals in anime, because I think the fact that it’s an animated medium gives it so much potential, but, ironically enough, the vast majority of the shows out there look generic, without too much creativity put into the visual direction or storyboarding. Medaka Box is one such show this season. I can’t say Mysterious Girlfriend X has consistently wowed me with its visuals, but that one scene definitely did. I want to see more of that.

      I think she’s a lot more normal than she lets on.

      I think that’s a wonderful way of describing Mikoto. There are times when she almost seems to fall into being just another emotionless girl character, but she keeps coming back, expressing herself with real and raw feelings that any normal adolescent girl in her situation would have.

  4. BlackBriar says:

    Oka is becoming an instigator. I guess she’s causing tension to influence Akira and Mikoto to further their relationsip to make her comparison more interesting and enjoying her mischivous work.

    It’s interesting bringing Akira’s old crush to test Mikoto’s feelings. The refreshing part was honesty about her jealousy because not everyone can bring themselves down to admit such insecurities. But I’m sure she heard Akira call her by her first name and was happy about it but all the while, putting up a front.

    • lvlln says:

      That refreshing honesty is what makes Mikoto so endearing, isn’t it? Whether it be straight-up telling Akira that he’d be the first one she’d have sex with in the 1st episode or her curt rejection of Ogata in the 3rd, she doesn’t waste words. Of course, she gets to cheat at times thanks to the magic of drool like in this episode, and getting rid of that cheating is what I’m hoping will be a source of major character development in the show.

  5. [...] with her possessive instinct at the same time as Akira. This was a different girl to the one who chose not to interfere during Akira’s first encounter with Aika. Or even the time when Ogata asked her out; could she [...]

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